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With the way they were playing three weeks ago, the Phoenix Coyotes looked like they would end their seven-year playoff drought. They've been spiraling down the Western Conference standings ever since, though, and breaking out of their funk against the Edmonton Oilers won't be an easy task.
The slumping Coyotes look to avoid falling further out of the playoff picture and snap a six-game losing streak to the Oilers when they meet Monday night.
Phoenix (25-27-5) was fifth in the West with 53 points at the All-Star break but has gone just 1-8-0 since to drop to 13th, six points back of eighth-place Anaheim. The Coyotes have not been to the playoffs since 2001-02 - tied with Chicago and Los Angeles for the second-longest postseason drought in the West.
One of the biggest reasons for Phoenix's recent struggles has been its play at home.
The Coyotes have been outscored 27-13 in losing all five home games since the break after going 10-2-1 in their previous 13 at Jobing.com Arena.
"We're putting ourselves in a tough position, there is no question about that," coach Wayne Gretzky said after Saturday's 7-5 home loss to Calgary. "We just can't afford to keep losing at home."
Phoenix, which is in the midst of its longest home losing streak since a six-game skid Oct. 6-Nov. 3, 2007, has also lost three straight at home to the Oilers (28-23-4) since a 5-2 victory on Oct. 26, 2006.
The Coyotes have had no luck against Edmonton, regardless of where the games have played lately. The Oilers, who are one point out of eighth in the West, have won all six meetings since the start of last season, outscoring Phoenix 32-15.
In their first two games this season - both in Edmonton - the Oilers won 4-2 on Dec. 22 and 6-3 on Jan. 18 behind 13-year veteran Ethan Moreau's first career hat trick.
Edmonton opened a four-game road trip Saturday with a 3-2 shootout victory over Los Angeles, despite getting outshot 41-21.
Dustin Penner had a goal and an assist, while goaltender Dwayne Roloson made 39 saves. Roloson has played well since being pulled after allowing five first-period goals in an 8-3 loss at Detroit on Feb. 7, going 2-0-1 in three starts while stopping 112-of-118 shots in those contests.
"Dwayne was outstanding," coach Craig MacTavish said. "He played exceptionally well. It was a great performance."
Roloson has been in net for both games against the Coyotes this season and has posted a 2.60 goals-against average in winning five consecutive starts over them since the start of last season.
Ales Hemsky, who leads the Oilers with 17 goals and 31 assists, has three goals and eight assists in the six games versus Phoenix since 2007-08.
Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov allowed all seven goals Saturday, and has yielded at least four scores in four of his last five starts.
Bryzgalov, who has made 16 consecutive starts for the Coyotes, has a 3.74 GAA since the break after going 5-2-0 with a 2.83 GAA in his previous seven. He is 1-4-0 with a 4.38 GAA in six career starts versus the Oilers.